UK university enforces “blasphemy law” against atheists

The London School of Economics has found itself in the midst of yet another scandal as students from the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist (ASH) society were threatened with physical removal from the university Freshers’ Fayre this week unless they covered t-shirts deemed “offensive”.

The university’s student union officials apparently removed material from the ASH Society stall, citing the two students wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ shirts as antagonists in the incident. ‘Jesus and Mo’ is a satirical cartoon strip which has caused issues on university campuses before. Chris Moos and Abishek Phandis, the latter of whom writes for this website, were told that “the wearing of the t-shirts could be considered ‘harassment’, as it could ‘offend others’ by creating an ‘offensive environment’“.

Student Union officials alleged that other students had complained about the t-shirts.

Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, said:

We reject in the strongest possible terms that by wearing a non-violent, non-racist t-shirt we would harass other students or create an ‘offensive environment’. We reject completely that we were not behaving in an ‘orderly or responsible manner’.

“In fact, when faced with the entirely unreasonable request to change or cover up our clothing, we remained calm and asked for clarification on what rules or regulations we were alleged to be in breach of. Even though we completely disagreed with the instructions of the LSE, we still complied, making clear that we would challenge this decision through the appropriate procedures.

“As much as we respect and defend the rights of others to wear whatever they choose to wear, we claim this right for ourselves. Our right to free expression and participation in the LSE student community is being curtailed for no other reason than that we are expressing views that are not shared by others.

“The t-shirts worn are harmless satirical depictions of fictitious religious figures and certainly cannot be considered intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to anyone by even the most stringent standards“.

In addition to this, Stephen Evans, the campaigns manager at the National Secular Society said, “There is something very disturbing about the curtailing of free speech on university campuses simply on the grounds of claimed offence. Being offended from time to time is the price you pay for living in an open and free society. If any religion is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation“.

In seeking to protect the feelings of religions students over the free speech of all, the university faces accusations of enforcing a “blasphemy law” which curtails the criticism of religion on campus.

A full account of the incident, in the words of Moos and Abhishek, can be found here.

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  • Rebel Saint

    I wonder which students they were worried about “offending”? It certainly wouldn’t be the Christian students … so who could it possibly be?!

  • Normandee

    Another slide down the slope the politicians deny the existence of.

  • Jan Jeske

    Insanity. Insult and offend away, everyone!!!

  • AlexCatgirl

    How do you *know* christian fucktwits were not to blame, or shared part of the blame? Far too many Christians/social conservatives are very quick to jump on the non-belief bandwagon as they are worried that an even more zealous group of people will unseat them.

  • tony123

    Should have raised a formal complaint on grounds of religious intolerance, citing the University’s own policy back at them: According the LSE’s Harassment policy, harassment is an act which “causes an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”. There was no evidence that the students caused this, but the act against them was intimidating and hostile. Here we actually see that the students had offered to cover the parts of their T-shirts up, but the unreasonableness continued, representing a threat to humiliate those people by having them remove their clothing. A formal complaint would have required the university to provide a formal investigation and response and, in doing so, get themselves into a very amusing tail spin of revealing their vacuous spitefulness and double standards I’m sure!

  • Gabriel Chase

    Out of pure interest and fairness, you understand, here is the link to the whole Jesus and Mo comic strip from the start:

    Have fun, folks!

  • StillStacy

    I’d like to say, “Here in the States, we have our First Amendment rights, and our Free Exercise clause to protect such actions.” But those days are gone. This country now cowers to the Muslims, and their belief that somehow the rest of us must be respectful of the beliefs they should only be holding among themselves. Smear feces on a crucifix and call it art? That one is acceptable.

  • Penfold

    Oh very, very good.

  • Donn Irving

    Oh my, another useless/worthless uproar.

  • Invisible Deity

    Utterly disgusting. I thought the US bad, but a supposedly modern nation has laws against blasphemy in the 21st century??

    The UK should hide its head in shame for having the same kinds of laws nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia have.

    People offend my beliefs every day of the week. This whole incident offends my belief in freedom of speech and expression.

    Any ideology that cannot take criticism, ESPECIALLY when it claims to be divine truth, should be deliberately mocked until its follows learn to shut up or grow up.

  • UltimateRealityCheck

    A tasteful joke about religion is one thing, but you know there is a
    fine line between freedom of expression and blatent fucking disrespect
    for others faith. Just because you don’t believe it does not give you
    the damn right to insult others beliefs. How would you a-holes like it,
    if we went around wearing Atheists/etc are stupid shirts? Hmmmm that
    would be offensive wouldn’t it? Its not a matter of free speech its a
    matter of respect, you have the right to believe or not believe what
    ever you want, God, yes God, gave you that privilege of free will to
    make that decision. No one…well no one with sense anyways, is forcing
    you to believe one way or another, that is your choice. However I think I
    speak on behalf of all true believers of Christianity anyways, that all
    this garbage that has been popping up on the internet and everywhere
    else is not hurting us its hurting you, just because you don’t believe
    there is something in the afterlife to punish you, doesn’t mean there
    isn’t, you say there is no proof there is, I say there is no proof there
    isn’t, so take that one home with you.

    Also one last thing, if
    some fanatical believer gives you a hard time over something trivial,
    don’t let that damage your viewpoint of every believer. Those holly
    rollers nitwits do not speak for all of us, just themselves, and to be
    honest they get on our nerves too.

  • feynor

    You rant about having respect.

    It goes both ways.

    I personally find hijabs, and religious ornamentation deeply offensive. But you don’t see me running around, behaving like a deranged fool, trying to get people to cover it up.

  • Joel

    You have the right to free speech, I have the right to tell you that your ideas are fucking insane and there is no reason that I should show your cult any respect. You tell me I am a bad person for not believing in your sky fairy, fuck you, I think you are a pussy for not dying in battle, so you can feast in the halls of Valhalla with Odin. Pull your righteous head out of your ass.

  • Franky G

    If you went around wearing Atheists/etc are stupid shirts then you’d be the one to look like a fool, not the Atheists. It’s not our fault you are insecure about your religion.

  • Levi Dettwyler

    “Just because you don’t believe it does not give you the damn right to insult others beliefs.”

    We reserve the right to hold and express the opinion that your opinion sucks. Just because it’s “your opinion” does NOT mean it deserves any inherent respect. It’s not sacred.

    “you say there is no proof there is, I say there is no proof thereisn’t, so take that one home with you.”

    Aside from the fact that there is evidence that there is no afterlife, the above is the worst argument for anything anyone could possibly make. I’m stunned if you honestly believe that what you just said was in any way rational. Try replacing “afterlife” with “magical elves”, and the absurdity of your argument is instantly revealed.

  • Huw Rees

    Wow, just reading the hateful comments by atheists in this comment section just goes to show just how tolerant and respectful a lot of these people are. I “respect” people of various faiths, or none, depending on whether they are decent human beings or not, regardless of whether or not I respect or approve of their belief. There is a difference.

    I respect lot of atheists, as most of my friends are. You people who are spouting hatred for others I do not have respect for. Like my mam always says, “there’s being right, and there’s being nice”. Please don’t be douchebags.

    As a Christian, I do not believe that t-shirts like this should be banned as such, just be discouraged. Once you start censoring this kind of thing, it’s a slippery slope.

  • Julieann Carter

    I wonder, would the LSE had behaved the same way, if say, the T. Shirts had simply said, “Jesus is the son of God”? (Leaving “Mo” out of it…).
    Interesting….because that would be just as offensive, would it not?

    Atheists, please can you try this as an experiment ?
    I actually think it would benefit Muslims to be forced to acclimatise to Western realities.
    Err…by that I mean of course…Freedom of speech and of expression..
    I’m all for a little bit of healthy competitiveness, ‘Jesus is the son of God’ could be worn next to another reading, eg. ‘Trend Central is the best blog’!

    Or, could inject a little Carlsberg…’probably’..!

  • Jared

    So what happens when two people enter the campus and are actually called Jesus and Mo? Are they ejected because they dare communicate with each other on an equal footing? Mo Farrah double olympic gold medalist and Jesus is a popular mexican name. Just a thought. But the end of the day, this PC nonsense has gone far enough. Time for epople to wind their collective necks in and just get the hell along with each other.